I recently had the pleasure of speaking on the panel at Young Women in Law’s annual session on “Life After Hireback.”

This is a great event for new calls that features recruiters and career coaches as well as associates who successfully found jobs outside of the hireback process, giving advice to new calls on how to manage their job search if they were not hired back by their articling firm. I wanted to share some of the advice that was given by members of the panel as I think it useful for all new calls who are embarking on a job search this summer.

The panel kicked off with the question “what is the first thing a new call should consider before starting their job search?” One piece of advice was to take the time to figure out your message so that you can focus in on the type of position you are seeking. Considerations include the area(s) of law you are interested in, whether you want private practice versus in-house, size of firm, geographic location, etc. The key is that you take the time to identify your goals and the message you want to convey to potential employers about the work you want to do. Once you have figured out your message, one associate suggested crafting your “elevator pitch” which is a tool to focus your message to explain who you are, what you’re looking for and why you could be successful in a particular position. As a recruiter, my advice on what to do after you have settled on your message is to ensure your resume and application materials match your message; if you are ideally looking for a real estate position but also open to general corporate positions, you should have different versions of your resume for each role. Click here to read our blog on resume tips and why it is important to customize your resume for different applications.

Another topic that generated a lot of interest was what to do in the situation where you are offered a job that is less than your ideal. Should you take a job that is not in your area of interest to avoid having long gaps on your resume?  My best advice in this situation is to think forward to when you are applying to your dream job; how does the move you’re thinking about look on your resume? Is it explainable in that there is some link between your dream job and the skills and expertise you would be developing in this job? If not, it could do damage to your marketability in the long-term. On the other hand, a job that is in your area of interest but is not ideal for other reasons (maybe it is a contract position or involves a long commute) could be worthwhile because it is still building your resume and skills in a way that makes sense given your end goal.

The most repeated piece of advice during the session was to stay in touch with your network and leverage those connections as much as possible by letting them know what type of position you are looking for and where you have applied. Remember, the network you started to build during articling is just as important as the legal skills you developed along the way. Of course, you need to exercise good judgment regarding the frequency at which you reach out to contacts to ask for favours and advice during your job search and remember to send a thank you note with your new contact information to everyone who helped you along the way once you do land a position.

Finally, the panel addressed the elephant in the room; how to respond if you are asked the question “why weren’t you hired back?” It seems that associates have had mixed experiences being asked this question but if it does come up, the most important thing is that you are honest in your response; the Toronto legal bar is small and there is always a good chance that your interviewer has a connection to the firm you articled with in one way or another. If asked this question, provide an explanation if there is one (i.e. you only wanted to be hired in the tax group and the tax group wasn’t hiring this year) and then take the opportunity to let the interviewer know you are able to provide good references from the firm or about positive reviews you received.

Although long job searches can be discouraging at times, this panel proved that there is life after hireback.

Jennifer is a Recruitment and Communications Consultant with The Heller Group. She is actively involved in the recruitment and placement of lawyers into law firms and corporations and is also responsible for the corporate communications related to The Heller Group. In her spare time, Jennifer enjoys travelling, curling and spending time with friends and family.

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